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Prince William: Following in his mother's charitable footsteps

By Susannah Palk for CNN
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Diana, Princess of Wales, was renowned for her charitable works
  • Prince William is now involved in two of the organizations his mother was closely involved with
  • As president of The Royal Marsden Hospital, he visits the hospital regularly

London, England (CNN) -- To many, Diana was the epitome of a glamorous princess, renowned for her iconic style and close ties to the fashion world.

But the Princess of Wales was also known for her charitable works -- most notably destigmatizing people with AIDS by reaching out to them and campaigning against landmines by walking through an Angolan minefield.

She also exposed her sons -- Prince William, second in line to the British throne and Prince Harry, third in line -- to the everyday realities of life outside the palace walls from an early age.

Now William, who is set to marry his long-term girlfriend Kate Middleton on April 29, has set up a charitable gift fund for the couple's upcoming nuptials. The pair has asked anyone thinking of sending a gift to donate instead -- the funds going towards 26 chosen charities.

William has also invited the heads of organizations both he and his mother are closely associated with, namely Centrepoint, a London-based homelessness charity, and the Royal Marsden Hospital.

Diana put people at their ease and I think that's something we've noticed with Prince William.
--Cally Palmer, Chief Executive of The Royal Marsden Hospital.
Charity chief invited to royal wedding
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Cally Palmer, Chief Executive of The Royal Marsden, has worked closely with Prince William for many years and will be attending the royal wedding on behalf of the hospital. She spoke to CNN about Diana's charitable legacy and her excitement about the upcoming nuptials.

CNN: I presume Prince William first became introduced to the hospital through his mother, who was president, wasn't she?

Cally Palmer: That's right. His (Prince William's) mother was president before him from 1989 for eight years. She was here regularly and had a wonderful informal style in terms of her relationships with patients and staff. Prince William has taken up where she left off, so we're very fortunate in that.

CNN: I know you weren't here at the time, but give us a sense of the Diana that would come here and the Diana that the staff here knew.

CP: As I say, she was very informal and put people at their ease and I think that's something that we've noticed with Prince William. He has fantastic empathy with patients. He can sit and chat to them, they feel very at ease and similarly with staff -- they feel inspired by him when he's here. He's a great person to be our president and he's very involved in the hospital.

CNN: Just describe a typical day when he comes here and meets the staff and the patients.

CP: It's pretty relaxed, because that's his style. So he'll wander in, he goes straight up to a ward or a clinical area, knows to roll up his sleeves and take watches off because of infection controls, so he knows the rules.

He'll give tea to patients, he'll sit and chat to them. He chats to the staff and he's known to many of the medical nursing staff well now. He first came to us to do some work experience about six years ago and then obviously has come more regularly as president since 2007.

CNN: And what's been your favorite moment with him?

CP: I think I've got two. The first is that when he first came here, he spent quite a lot of time with the patients on our breast cancer ward and the next day, he sent everybody he met a bouquet with a handwritten note, which was wonderfully kind and very thoughtful.

But probably even more touching that that, we were going around the ward together chatting to patients and someone from one of the beds said, 'Hello sir, do you remember me?' He turned around and said, 'Yes I do, you used to take me to school when I was at prep (elementary) school.' So that was a lovely moment.

CNN: How important is it that you have someone like Prince William shining a spotlight right now on an organization like this?

CP: Well it's fantastic for us, because our mission in life is to try and innovate and discover breakthroughs and diagnoses and treatment techniques for cancer and he highlights the work that we do.

He's been very behind us and always asks about our building program and our latest pieces of kit, so he comes and visits and looks at them and so he just gives additional profile to the work that we try and do in a fantastic way.

CNN: In terms of the royal wedding, one of the privileges of your position and having known William over the years is that you get invited to the wedding. Was that a shock, a surprise?

CP: It was an unexpected delight, so I'm delighted and honored really. But I'm there to represent the hospital -- his relationship is very much with the hospital and I'm very proud to be going on behalf of the hospital.

CNN: On a personal level, what are you most excited about on the big day?

CP: I think just joining in with a wonderful historic event. It will very happy. It will be fantastic to be there in Westminster Abbey and I look forward to talking to the staff about it when I'm back.

The Royal Marsden Hospital is Europe's largest comprehensive cancer center and has received royal patronage since Queen Elizabeth II became the hospital's patron in 1952.

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